A Silurian Capital?

Ceri Shaw
02/13/16 10:07:21PM

A map showing the relative positions of Caerwent and Llanmelin hill fort. The hill fort is just above and to the left off 'Llan-melin Wood" at the top of the display.

It was long thought by historians that the iron age hill fort at Llanmelin was a tribal center or captital of the Silures, the ancient Brythonic tribe of south Wales. This belief was based on the fact that the fort is a short distance from the later Roman civitas capital at Caerwent ( Venta Silurum ). The theory was that the Roman settlement was established here in order to entice the tribal elders down from the hills with promise of hot baths, wine, women and song. The comforts of Roman urban life would of course exert a civilising influence upon the tribesmen and distract them from thoughts of war and rebellion.

This presumption has since been abandoned for three main reasons:

  • Llanmelin is a a small fort, only 5.4 acres in area and Caerwent is not much further from what was once a much larger fort ( see map below ) at Sudbrook on the Severn estuary.
  • It seems more likely that Caerwent was chosen because of its close proximity to the Severn ferries at Beachley and Sudbrook.
  • It is very possible that the Silures lacked centralised control and were in fact a loose confederation of smaller tribes, and family groups.

I thought it might be useful to have a thread on hill forts and pre-Roman tribal organisation in the group. So, if anyone has any pics of Welsh hill forts or any insights into Roman or pre-Roman tribal organisation and lifestyle, this is one place to post :)

Sudbrook hill fort on the Severn estuary. It once occupied a larger area but much has been lost to erosion. The site of a ferry crossing in Roman times, Sudbrook is now close to the Welsh end of the Second Severn Crossing, see map below, bottom left.